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I miss traveling. I usually have a trip or two planned for the summer. A few summers ago my husband and I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest. The beaches there are very different from Gulf Coast beaches. For one thing, the temperatures are colder. With our heat rising to 95 or more degrees these days, I wish for the cool breeze of a Northwest beach.

My friend, JoAnne Duncan lives in Washington state within driving distance of beautiful mountains and beaches. She’s traveling near Seattle this week. She’s been posting some gorgeous photos of her trip on Facebook. This one just begged to be a poem.

Feather at Sea by JoAnne Duncan.

I am a feather
tethered
to blue stones
tossed from sea.
Notice me
before I fly.

Margaret Simon, draft

Take a minute to look outside at this image, look inside to your heart, and put down a few words, 16 or so, in the comments as a small poem. Please encourage other writers with your comments. Poetry is balm.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

The greatest joy of my summer has been spending time with my grandsons. Leo is 19 months and is learning new words every day. One of his words is “bird” that sounds more like “bir,” and he has the cutest tweet sound.

In our courtyard, I’ve been working on attracting more birds. We’ve hung a few feeders. We have chickadees, titmice, and cardinals visit. Leo has noticed them. He will stop what he’s doing to look up at the sound of a chickadee.

It was time to change the suet feeder. I wanted to involve Leo, so I googled “DIY bird feeder for kids.” This video popped up.

I wondered if the recipe would work using the wire suet feeder rather than cookie cutters.

Easy peasy and great for toddler time. I boiled a quarter cup of water in the microwave and added it to a large metal bowl along with one packet of gelatin. Leo understands the concept of hot. He said, “Hah. Hah.” I gave him a wooden spoon to stir with. After stirring the gelatin, I held a measuring cup of bird seed (about a cup) while Leo scooped the seed using an ice cream scooper.

Leo focused on stirring and scooping.

With the metal frame on a baking sheet, I scooped the mixture in ready to wait and let it harden. When I took Leo off the chair he was standing on, he immediately screamed “more! more!” while making the more sign. It’s the only sign he knows, but it’s an important one. So, we did another batch. Why not! The metal frame was big enough to hold two batches.

I am amazed that, with heat indexes in the 100s, the mixture is holding up, not melting. I sent Leo (his mom) a picture I took looking out the kitchen window of a male cardinal perched on the feeder.

Cardinal at the feeder.

While the news is bleak, let’s remember the simple joy of watching birds. “Bir! Bir! Tweet! Tweet!”

Find more links to reading children’s literature at Jen Vincent’s blog.

How often does one follow a book from its idea to formation? I have been privileged to know Nancy Rust and Carol Stubbs, co-authors of Andrew Higgins and the Boats That Landed Victory in World War II. Nancy and Carol started our local branch of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). We meet monthly, so I heard about this book from its beginning and was privileged to read multiple drafts. I never imagined the illustrations, however, to be as stunning as the ones from Brock Nicol.

If you ever plan a trip to New Orleans, the World War II museum is a must see. The Higgins Boats are amazing structures. It’s difficult to believe they can actually float. Not only do they float, but they are credited for winning the war.

Andrew Higgins as a child; illustration by Brock Nicol.

Nancy and Carol’s book follows Andrew Higgins from his childhood in Nebraska where his imagination led him to wonder. He did not stick with school, so he became a soldier, truck driver, lumber jack, as he struggled to find his passion.

Through his lumber business, Andrew experienced the difficulty of maneuvering boats through cypress swamps. His mind started working on a design to navigate more easily and quickly. He studied different types of water dwellers, from a Cajun pirogue to a blue whale and spoonbill. He was able to make boats better and faster.

One little known aspect of Andrew Higgins’ character was his commitment to hiring women and men of all races and paying equal pay for equal work. This book highlights the compassion and creativity of a man of history with engaging text and impressive illustrations.

If you are interested in hearing more about this new book, tune into the World War II Museum Young Readers Author Talk on July 22 at 11:00 AM Central. Click here to register.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Ruth all the way from Haiti.

What words will call to you?

Irene Latham, introduction to This Poem is a Nest

Irene Latham is as charming and lovely in person as her poems are on the page. Her new release This Poem is a Nest opens with an invitation. In Part I, we read the poem “Nest.” This seedling is divided into 4 seasons of 3 stanzas each of free verse poetry. “Nest” has everything I love in a poem, lyrical language, alliteration and onomatopoeia, imagery of nature, and inquiry that touches my heart, “Won’t you climb inside?”

Nest is the seed poem for Irene’s creativity that grows into day poems, before & after poems, calendar poems, color poems, animal poems, feeling poems, and just when you think she could not possibly find any more poems in Nest, there is word play, alphabet, and ars poetica.

With all of these nestling poems, you would think the poems would lose magic, lose originality, or become repetitive, but the experience of them is quite the opposite. Each new poem needs to be held for a minute or two. Each one reveals a surprise, all the way to the last poem:

Last Poem

birdsong
nothing more

Irene Latham, This Poem is a Nest

The end papers of this wonderful book offer writing advice to budding poets. Irene gives tools to me and teachers like me who want to inspire students to write. The art of “found poetry” has been elevated to “nest-poem” or “nestling.”

I wanted to try it out, so I went to a poem by Barbara Crooker that I had cut out and glued into my journal. “How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn Into a Dark River.”

Step one: Circle words that appeal to you. I circled drizzling, air, careening.

Then I looked up careening to check my understanding of the word.
“move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction.”

Step two: Choose a subject. I thought a lot about this. Air, careening…a kite.

Unlike found poetry, nestlings do not have to follow the order in which you find the words, so I went back and grabbed “reach” from the first line, which led me to “wonder” and “for,” finishing my image of a flying kite.

Image poem created on Canva.

Now as I look again at the nestling I created, I think it would be better like this:

How to be a Kite
Careen
with drizzling air
Reach
for wonder.

By going through this process, I realize how much work went into Irene’s book of poems. Writing nestlings is a fun challenge. I had to use critical thinking skills that are imperative to teaching students to write. I encourage you to try writing nestling poems. Thanks, Irene!

Free use, Library of Congress collection

This photo is from the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, a set of 22,000 glass and film photographs and negatives taken in what was then called Palestine (present day Israel and the West Bank) from 1898 to 1946. The picture is part of a “Bedouin wedding series” but the caption on the negative just reads, “The bride.” That’s it. The Bedouins roamed the region as nomads, so there are any number of places the photograph might have been taken over the course of two decades.

Library of Congress blog

Usually for the photo prompt I find a photo of my own or one from my Instagram or Facebook feed, but today I am using a photo from the Library of Congress. I signed up for emails from the Library of Congress blog, and this recent post made me want to know more.

Please write a small poem of 16 words or so in the comments and comment on other poems. I “found” a poem on the blog post. Maybe that’s cheating…

Still,
 eyes.
Those hands.
This woman knows work.
She is there
gazing into the future
hoping…

Margaret Simon, found poem
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Before leaving my students for the year, I offered an assignment from Scholastic Magazines, the My History Project. We spent a Google Meet session looking at Animoto for creating interesting videos.

I knew this project would be a difficult endeavor without me overseeing and coaching the process. I honestly didn’t think any of them would take the time to pursue it.

You are a part of history.
You are living through an important and unique time in history—the COVID-19 pandemic. Years from now, historians will learn from the experiences of people who went through it—people like you and your family.

Lauren Tarshis, Scholastic

The projects were due to Scholastic by July 1st. I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from Chloe’s mom with a link to her completed video. I’m excited to share it with you. I love how Chloe used equations “Laura Purdie Salas-style” to communicate a lot with few words. Please share comments to Chloe here, and I will pass them on to her.

My History by Chloe, 2020

Find more links to reading children’s literature at Jen Vincent’s blog.

Would you like some wickedly wacky poetry in your life? Reach for Vikram Madan’s book A Hatful of Dragons. I won this hilarious book on Matt Forrest Esenwine’s blog

Reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, I can imagine my students falling into this book of poetry. I love books that help us to see poetry as something fun, fun to read, and fun to write. Vikram Madan plays with language in a unique way: “A hatful of babies? Will leave you crawled! A hatful of barbers? Could shave your head bald! A hatful of dragons???”

The best, though, is the fill-in-the-blank poem. With 7 choices you can fill in 1 blank 7 different ways and you can have 7 different poems, but you have 12 lists of 7 words to choose from. It becomes an exponential number of poems possible. 13.8 billion! Kids will have a blast with this!

Page from A Hatful of Dragons shows the whimsical illustrations that accompany the poems.

All Because You Matter came to me from Scholastic. The release date is Fall 2020. Written by Tami Charles and illustrated by Bryan Collier, this book should be in every early learning classroom. The colors in the illustrations are magnificent. The text is lyrical and poetic.

“They say that matter
is all things
that make up the universe:
energy,
stars,
space…

If that’s the case,
then you, dear child, matter.”

Tami Charles, All Because You Matter

Tamir Charles writes in her Author’s Note that she will not raise her son to walk in fear. Without answers for fixing racial injustice, she begins with this book…”a loving tribute to the greatness that lives within my beautiful, brown-hued, brown-eyes boy and within all children, of all colors, everywhere…YOU MATTER!”

I am reposting this week’s prompt for Poetry Friday. I have taken on a weekly photo prompt from what originally was done by Laura Purdie Salas at her blog: “15 Words or Less.” With a new title, I am posting a photo on Thursdays for whomever feels compelled to write a small poem response. To join us each week, subscribe to my blog in the right margin or watch for it on Twitter @MargaretGSimon or Facebook (Margaret Gibson Simon). We welcome all writers.

Please read and respond to a few poems as well as post one of your own.

This week’s photo comes from Amanda Potts in Ontario, Canada. Amanda is an amazing educator who blogs at Persistence and Pedagogy. I grabbed her photo from an Instagram post. She joined a challenge called #EducatorsONtherun with other Canadian educators to run or walk 1.5 km for 45 days from May 18 (Victoria Day) to July 1 (Canada Day). Her Instagram posts each day were full of beautiful images and inspiring messages.

After the rain by Amanda Potts

Let’s honor Canada Day with poems. Write a small poem of 16 words or fewer. Place it in the comments. Be sure to respond to other poets with encouraging words.

(A note about 16 words: William Carlos Williams once wrote a small poem about a red wheelbarrow using only 16 words. Amazing things can happen in small poems.)

After the rain
droplets cling
Sprinkle green leaves
with feeling
So much depends
upon the rain

Margaret Simon, draft
Poetry Friday round-up is at Karen’s Blog.

Summer means the Summer Poetry Swap which is coordinated by Tabatha. I’ve already received two poetry gifts, and it feels like summer just began.

The first poem I received came from Laura Shovan, a dear poet friend and author of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary and Takedown. Laura sent sourdough starter, a whimsical pen, and this poem.

Bread and Water by Laura Shovan

My second poem came from Buffy Silverman. Buffy and I have never met, but I have enjoyed her poetry for years. What delight to open an email from her with this image and beautiful poem about wild iris, blue flag!

Blue Flag by Buffy Silverman

This week Linda Mitchell and I teamed up to provide prompts for Ethical ELA. This site by Sarah Donovan is a wonderful place for teachers to write and receive positive feedback. I enjoyed being a part of the community this week. The poetic responses were amazing! Here is a link to the 5 Day Open Write.

I wrote two poems in response to Linda’s prompts. The first one was a list poem. I had a receipt marking my notebook page. My oldest daughter is having a girl (Yes!) in November. At a local children’s store, I bought the first thing for this new one, a newborn gown.

For the Little Ones
 
Shorts
Shirt
Gown–> NB
 
white silky soft
edged with pink stitching
to welcome
a sister
now growing
day by day
a girl to embrace
a girl to bless
a girl to love

Margaret Simon, draft

The second prompt from Linda came from Linda Baie’s prompt in Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project, to write a fiction poem. I took some quotes from my weekend with my kids and built this scene.

Heat
 
What is it about the 90 degree mark
that turns a sunny day into fire
burning you through to the bone?
 
They didn’t speak in the heat;
Their brains thirsty, wrung out 
beyond droplets of sweat,
couldn’t fathom anything worthy of saying.
 
He handed her the phone,
clicked play on a video of animal faces,
noses in particular, that made her smile,
despite herself. She didn’t bother 
to ask why. 
 
Humor finds its way into the cracks
of relationship, beneath the surface
of burning skin to release toxins
from the crease of a smile. 

Margaret Simon, draft

Once again, I am inspired by Molly Hogan’s photography. She starts each day with a blank canvas, or what would have been once called an empty roll of film. And she opens her lens for discoveries and wonder.

This photo appeared last week in my Facebook feed. The whimsy of it grabbed me. Molly thinks the duckling is a common eider, not a duck we have in the deep south.

Please join me in writing a small poem today, inspired by this image. Leave your poem in the comments. Read other poems and comment. Come back to read any comments you receive. Here there is no judgement; we hold each other up.

Hello world! by Molly Hogan

Flip-flap!
Splish-splat!

I toddle
on my new legs,

just like
That!

Margaret Simon, flash draft